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20 March 2015

Review & Interview: 'Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret?' by Sue Shepherd (2015)

Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret? is a romantic comedy about three very different people, each with a secret, whose lives collide in unexpected ways. 

Steph is a harassed mum who's considering an affair with her children's sexy headmaster. Penny is trying to deal with a crush on her boss, OCD and a sad secret from her childhood. And Mike is a vicar who is being blackmailed for his secret, although it's not all that it seems! 

Meanwhile, all three are being watched over by their own guardian angels, who try to push them in the right direction and help move their lives along - but not always successfully ...

Congratulations to author Sue Shepherd today, because it's the release date of her debut novel 'Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret?'! The publisher of the book, Corazon Books, contacted me a few months ago about this exciting upcoming new release and I straight away was intrigued by the sound of the novel. I love a good secret (just like most people) and 'Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret?' promised to be an enjoyable women's fiction read. I'm also really excited to welcome Sue Shepherd herself to the blog today; make sure to scroll down for an author interview with her!

'Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret?' focuses on three different characters that all have one thing in common: they are trying to keep a big secret from the people around them. Steph Stubbs is a mother of two who unexpectedly falls for the new headmaster at her children's school. Steph can't help but love the excitement of another man being interested in her, and she seriously considers having an affair. Mike Bannerman is the local vicar and recently he has found a new woman in his life: Maggie. Maggie is really important to Mike and he's deciding how to break the news to his wife Jane and his mother. But when a blackmailer comes onto the scene, things start to get real tricky for Mike. Penny Littleton is struggling with a quite severe case of OCD. She tries to not let it control her life, but even her boss is telling her to do something about it. What nobody knows, however, is that Penny is dealing with a big secret from her past, which she can't share with anyone but which is slowly eating her up from the inside and preventing her from leading a normal and happy life. Will Steph, Mike and Penny be able to keep their secrets hidden or is it true that the truth always comes out in the end...?

I always really enjoy novels in which there are multiple main characters, each with their own storyline, which are then somehow linked to one another. This is one of the reasons why I looked forward to picking up this book and had my fingers crossed for an enjoyable read. 'Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret?' certainly is an enjoyable read; a romantic comedy about three different characters, each of them trying to deal with a secret that is taking over their lives. The characters in the book were realistic and they had interesting secrets. I particularly liked Penny and Mike, and it took me a bit longer to warm to Steph (this is probably due to the nature of her secret, but I don't want to give too much away). The different storylines managed to keep my attention until the end and the novel was well-paced.

One of the things I liked most about the novel was the idea of guardian angels that was incorporated in it. We all know that voice in our head that every now and and again advises or warns us; this voice is actually our guardian angel, and Sue Shepherd added a nice storyline about these guardian angels and how they go about their work. While the book has a good collection of characters and intriguing storylines, I did feel the author's writing was still a bit rough around the edges. However, this is a debut novel, and nonetheless a promising one. 'Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret?' is an enjoyable, quick-paced, fun women's fiction read about people and the secrets they hide; I'm curious to see what else Sue Shepherd will bring us in the future!
For more information about this book: / / Goodreads

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Author interview with Sue Shepherd!

I'm excited to welcome author Sue Shepherd to the blog today to tell us more about her new debut novel 'Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret?', her own favourite books and her future plans as an author!

Can you tell us something about your new novel, ‘Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret?’?
It’s a story about three people; Steph, Mike and Penny, who are all keeping a secret from their nearest and dearest. 

Beginning the book unknown to each other, their stories gradually entwine.  There are many additional characters in the book, including a group of angels who have the unenviable task of watching over people and attempting to guide them. It’s bold and some of the subjects covered are hard hitting, but it also has its frivolous moments, and is essentially a romantic comedy.  Ultimately there is a lot of love in it, albeit hidden behind secrets.

Where did you get the inspiration for your novel? Is it in any way based on your own experiences?
Originally the story concentrated more on the angels’ point of view, but gradually the three main characters and their secrets seemed to push their way to the front and the angels happily took a back seat.  The novel was based on a piece of short fiction I wrote some years ago, about an angel who’d been given the job of watching over me and was not too happy about my erratic driving.  The day I wrote it I was running late and my driving was not the best it could be.  So I suppose you could say it is based on my experiences.  One of the characters is a bit scatty and the angels certainly don’t relish being allocated her.

Can you tell us a bit more about the main characters?
Steph Stubbs has a bit of a potty mouth and flies by the seat of her pants.  She’s a wife and mother to two children.  Unfortunately, she’s at a rather low ebb and feeling less than appreciated by her family, when she meets the attractive, new, head teacher at her children’s school.  Before she knows it she’s considering doing all sorts with this sexy man and her family are moving swiftly down her list of priorities.

Mike Bannerman is the local vicar.  He’s a loving husband and a devoted son.  A pillar of society, some would say, and yet he inexplicably comes into contact with a pernicious blackmailer and his previously ordered life is soon falling apart around his ears.

Lastly, there’s Penny Littleton, perhaps the saddest of the three.  She has many rituals to perform before she can even attempt to get on with living her daily life.  Ridiculously, she’s saving her love for the wrong man, and wasting her life.  Penny has the biggest secret to keep, and yet, it’s only by confronting that very secret that she can begin to heal.

There’s a great cast of supporting characters in the novel as well. Which character did you most enjoy writing?
One of my favourite supporting characters is Jamie, Steph’s seven year old son.  I think he adds a bit of mirth to her story and many of the things he and his sister say in the book are based on things my two, extremely entertaining, sons have said to me over the years.

Did you do any particular research for parts of the book?
Yes, I did a fair bit of research.  I don’t want to give away any secrets, but I did need to do some for the latter part of Mike’s storyline.  I also bought a book which retold people’s real life experiences of what they believed to be encounters with angels.  I found that very helpful when thinking about Angela, Aldo and Archibald and the world they inhabit.

Can you perhaps tell us something about your future plans? Are you perhaps already working on a next novel?
Yes, I’m about 30,000 words into my next books.  It’s about parallel worlds and explores how a fairly insignificant decision made by one person can change another person’s life immeasurably.  I’m enjoying the change but I do have to keep my wits about me incase I mix up my worlds!  It’s been on hold for the last couple of weeks as I’ve been busy talking about ‘Doesn’t Everyone Have A Secret?’ and I’m looking forward to getting back to it and seeing where it takes me next.  My children have grown more independent since I wrote my first book and I’m finding I have slightly more time to write now, so I’m hoping I’ll have a complete first draft later this year.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
I’d say don’t be afraid to show friends your ‘work in progress’ and join a writing group if possible.  If people want to give you advice, listen with an open mind.  Sometimes writers can get so immersed in their own novel that they can’t see the possibilities that a few changes present. You must be prepared to re-write where necessary.  Also remember, your reader might be planning to put the book down at the end of the next chapter but your mission is to ensure they simply can’t!  End every chapter on a cliff hanger.

What is the last book you read that you’d like to recommend to others?
I read ‘Life After Life’ last year and really enjoyed it.  As a fan of time travel, parallel worlds and all things ‘improbable’, I found it fascinating.  There were so many possibilities with Kate Atkinson’s idea; I loved the fact that there was no way to predict the outcome.

Which book could you not live without?
I had to think about this quite hard and a few books presented themselves for my consideration, but in the end my heart has chosen ‘I Miss You Stinky Face’ by Lisa McCourt.  I used to read it to my children often when they were small and it’s a book I can’t bear to part with, despite the fact that they’ve grown well beyond it.  In the story the child is waiting for his mum and is speaking to her on the phone.  He asks how she will get home and presents her with numerous obstacles that may prevent her return; the mum turns every negative into a wonderful positive in a highly imaginative journey from desert to jungle and pirate ship to castle, until finally the book ends with the words, “And I miss you, my little Stinky Face.” The illustrations, by Cyd Moore, are simply beautiful and the words are incredibly moving.  To this day, I absolutely cannot read it without crying.

And last but not least, if you had to describe ‘Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret?’ in just three words, which words would you pick?
This is tough; you’ve probably noticed that I’m not known for being concise!  But, having given it some thought, I’ve decided to go with – Laughing. Crying.  Living.

Thanks so much, Sue!

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